01 Nov Diabetes Type 1 and 2: Differences, Risk Factors, and More
Most of us have a common understanding of diabetes, the chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. But there’s confusion about the types of diabetes.
Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, causes, effects and tons more!
Diabetes is astoundingly common. About 1 in 11 people have diabetes in the United States alone. That’s 37.3 million people—more than the entire population of Texas and Arizona combined.
Given its prevalence, the more the know about diabetes, the better.
What causes diabetes?
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes may have similar names, but they’re different diseases with unique causes.
- type 1 diabetes is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction and develops early in life.
- Type 2 diabetes develops over the course of many years and is related to lifestyle factors such as being inactive and carrying excess weight. It’s usually diagnosed in adults.
Causes of type 1 diabetes
The body’s immune system is responsible for fighting off foreign invaders, such as harmful viruses and bacteria. In people with type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakes the body’s own healthy cells for foreign invaders.
The immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. After these beta cells are destroyed, the body is unable to produce insulin.
Researchers don’t know why the immune system sometimes attacks the body’s own cells. It may have something to do with genetic and environmental factors, such as exposure to viruses.
Research into autoimmune diseases is ongoing. Diet and lifestyle habits do not cause type 1 diabetes.
Causes of type 2 diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance. The body still produces insulin, but it’s unable to use it effectively.
Researchers aren’t sure why some people become insulin resistant and others don’t, but several lifestyle factors may contribute, including being inactive and carrying excess weight.
Other genetic and environmental factors may also play a role. When you develop type 2 diabetes, your pancreas will try to compensate by producing more insulin. Because your body is unable to effectively use insulin, glucose accumulates in your bloodstream.
How does diabetes affect the body?
There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.
Both types of diabetes are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar or glucose. Glucose is the fuel that feeds your body’s cells, but to enter your cells it needs a key. Insulin is that key.
People with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin. You can think of it as not having a key.
People with type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as well as they should and later in the disease often don’t make enough insulin. You can think of it as having a broken key.
Both types of diabetes can lead to chronically high blood sugar levels. That increases the risk of diabetes complications.
Risk factors for both types of diabetes
Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are less clear than risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
- Family history: People with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of developing it themselves.
- Age: Type 1 diabetes can appear at any age, but it’s most common among children and adolescents.
Type 2 diabetes risk factors
- have prediabetes, or slightly elevated blood sugar levels
- are carrying excess weight or have obesity
- have a lot of belly fat
- are physically active less than 3 times a week
- are over age 45
- have ever had gestational diabetes, which is diabetes during pregnancy
- have given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
- are Black, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, or Alaska Native due to structural inequities contributing to health disparities
- have an immediate family member with type 2 diabetes
- have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a problem with hormones that happens during the reproductive years
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
- urinating frequently
- feeling very thirsty and drinking a lot
- feeling very hungry
- feeling very fatigued
- having blurry vision
- having cuts or sores that don’t heal properly
- having very dry skin
- having more infections than usual
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may also experience irritability, mood changes, and unintentional weight loss.
Diabetes and numbness in hands and feet
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may experience numbness and tingling in their hands or feet. Good glucose management significantly reduces the risk of developing numbness and tingling in someone with type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Although many of the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar, they present in very different ways.
Some people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all and don’t discover they have the condition until complications arise.
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop quickly, typically over the course of several weeks.
Once known as juvenile diabetes, this type usually develops in childhood or adolescence. But it’s possible to develop type 1 diabetes later in life.
How are type 1 and type 2 diabetes treated?
Some people take injections into soft tissue, such as the stomach, arm, or buttocks, several times a day. Other people use insulin pumps. Insulin pumps supply a steady amount of insulin into the body through a small tube.
Blood sugar testing is an essential part of managing type 1 diabetes because blood sugar levels can go up and down quickly.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed and even prevented with diet and exercise, but many people need extra support. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may prescribe medications that help your body use insulin more effectively.
Monitoring your blood sugar is an essential part of type 2 diabetes management, too. It’s the only way to know whether you’re meeting your target levels.
Your doctor may recommend testing your blood sugar occasionally or more frequently. If your blood sugar levels are high, your doctor may recommend insulin injections.
Can diabetes be prevented?
Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented.
It may be possible to lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes through these lifestyle changes, such as:
- maintaining a moderate weight
- working with your doctor to develop a healthy weight-loss plan, if you have overweight
- increasing your activity levels
- eating a balanced diet and reducing your intake of sugary foods or overly processed foods
Even if you’re unable to prevent the disease, careful monitoring can get your blood sugar levels back to standard and prevent the development of severe complications.
Are men more likely to get diabetes?
But prevalence rates are higher among certain races and ethnicities in the United States.
Research suggests that this may be due in part to environmental factors, such as the history of discriminatory housing and lending policies in the United States.
Researchers posit that these policies resulted in racially and ethnically segregated neighborhoods that have inadequate access to healthy foods, insufficient health educational resources, and higher rates of obesity—a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
American Indian and Alaska Native adults are almost three times more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Prevalence rates are higher for Hispanic Americans of Mexican or Puerto Rican descent than they are for those of Central and South American or Cuban descent.
Among non-Hispanic Asian Americans, people with Asian Indian and Filipino ancestry have higher rates of diabetes than people with Chinese or other Asian ancestries.
How common is type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2.
How common is type 2 diabetes?
Which diets are recommended for diabetes?
Nutritional management and managing your blood sugar are key to living with diabetes.
If you have type 1 diabetes, work with your doctor to identify how much insulin you may need to inject after eating certain types of food.
For example, certain carbohydrates can cause blood sugar levels to quickly increase in people with type 1 diabetes. You’ll need to counteract this by taking insulin, but you’ll need to know how much insulin to take. Learn more about type 1 diabetes and diet.
People with type 2 diabetes need to focus on healthy eating.
People with diabetes may need to try different diets and nutritional plans to find a plan that works for their health, lifestyle, and budget.
This article was brought to you by the Proactive Health Management Plan in partnership with Healthline.